Larry Harlow, Influential Figure in Salsa, Dies at 82

Larry Harlow, she said, “broke the mould.” On March 20, 1939, in Brooklyn, New York, a boy named Lawrence Ira Kahn entered the world. When Larry was a child, his mother Rose Sherman Kahn was a famous opera singer and his father Nathan Kahn was a bass player and bandleader who went by the stage name Buddy Harlowe.

At the tender age of five, he began learning to play the piano and absorbing musical influences from his father, who was the house band leader at the Latin Quarter nightclub in Manhattan. Lou Walters owned the club, and his daughter Barbara Walters, who would go on to become a well-known television journalist, would occasionally hang out there.

For many years, Mr. Harlow and his wife sat on their laps, “watching every show that came in there—Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Joe E. Brown… Sophie Tucker.”

His first love wasn’t in the rhythms of the Americas. It was a jazz concert. However, he claimed that he was not accepted in the jazz community. Latin music was the next logical choice for him, he said in a 2009 interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “where I could still improvise and stretch.”

But it took a while. In his youth, Mr. Harlow’s father would take him to the Catskills, where Jewish vacationers loved to dance the cha-cha and mambo. While still in middle school, the music emanating from those bodegas had begun to evolve. At the tender age of sixteen, Mr. Harlow was asked to play piano in Hugo Dickens’ Latin band, but Mr. Dickens gave him an unfavourable review: He was terrible.